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Help with 4 year-old abused dog

1589 Views 15 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  RonE
Hello! I have had my girl, Bella, for 4 years now. I got her when she was 4 months old.
While she has come so far from the timid, shy dog that would not let anyone touch her; she still does not trust me or anyone fully. She still cowers when approached, or if one of the other dogs are being disciplined, or when I offer her food...etc, etc.
She constantly(and I am not exaggerating the constantly) wants attention. If one of my other dogs is getting attention, she pushes her way into the mix. She will paw me (which hurts badly) if she is not getting attention.
I do not hit, scream, kick, or in any other way abuse or neglect any of them.
I do not know what else to do to help her become more confident or to get her to understand that she is safe with me. She does listen to commands, gets along with my other dogs, not strange dogs though. She does not take to strangers so she has not been socialized alot. She can be unpredictable at times. There have been 3 people, besides me, that she has taken to almost immediately in the 4 years I have had her.
Any help would be appreciated.
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First off - cut yourself some slack. The title of your post, which labels her as 'abused' is misleading. If you've had her since 4 months of age, her fearfulness/anxiety is most likely genetic - NOT caused by something in her environment or anything you have done (or not done) I'd suggest looking into getting involved in Nosework. That's a wonderful way to help shy or anxious dogs gain some confidence, while demanding much less physical activity on the part of the human partner. Even if you don't pursue 'formal' classes, just Google 'nosework games for dogs' and you will get TONS of ideas to put her nose to use in creative & positive ways.

I will also encourage you to look up Debbie Jacobs. She has a book, website & facebook page all dedicated to working with fearful dogs. I guarantee that you will find some positive guidance there.

Also, have you talked to your vet - in depth - about her level of anxiety? She might be a good candidate for anti-anxiety medications along with a good, positive behavioral modification plan. Do you have a trainer that you are working with? If not, you would probably benefit from finding someone to help guide you along this path with your sweet, shy pup. Just make absolutely certain that they are highly qualified & only use positive reinforcement in working with timid dogs.
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Thank you everyone for the great ideas! She has been this way from the moment I got her. She was abused by the breeders, there was evidence gathered and reports filed. It may be some genetics as well. I have looked into that too. I will give these a shot.
Oh, that is so incredibly sad. Poor little thing. Many people immediately jump to the conclusion that a dog who shows extreme fear (in general or to specific things in the environment) has been 'abused' in the past, when very often the problem stems from genetics and potentially a lack of early socialization. It seems that your little one has all the strikes going against her.

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to helping her be the very best she can be.
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